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Taxes

What to Look for in a Tax Advisor

It’s important in life to surround yourself with the right people. A wise mentor. An encouraging best friend. And, yes, a really great tax advisor.

After all, when the stress of tax season starts to smother you with piles of paperwork, don’t you want a reliable tax pro on your side? Someone who can help you work through all your tax questions and problems? Of course you do!

But finding a tax advisor you can count on isn’t as easy as it used to be. So, what does a trustworthy tax advisor look like? And how can you find one near you?

We’re going to do a deep dive on the important qualities to look for in a tax pro. But first, let’s take a look at why you need one in the first place.

Why Work With a Tax Advisor?

Tax returns are like snowflakes—no two are alike! From the number of kids you have running around the house to those odd jobs you took to pay off debt faster, there are dozens of factors that impact how much you owe Uncle Sam and how much you can save on your taxes from year to year.

Taxes shouldn’t be this complicated. Connect with a RamseyTrusted tax advisor.

If your taxes are simple enough to handle on your own, check out Ramsey SmartTax—the tax software designed with you in mind! With Ramsey SmartTax there are no hidden fees, no gimmicks, no games.

But if your taxes are complicated or you don’t feel comfortable using tax software, you’ll be glad you turned to a pro for help. Here are some reasons why you’d want to work with a tax advisor this year:

  • You went through a major life change. Got married? Had a baby? Congrats! Your tax situation is probably going to change, so you’ll want to give your tax pro a call once you’re back from your honeymoon or fully stocked up on diapers.   
  • You had multiple sources of income or started a business. That extra cash you earned from driving for Uber or your new wedding photography business is nice! But that also means you might have to deal with 1099s, additional tax forms and issues you haven’t dealt with in the past like filing quarterly taxes. You can still use tax software to file if you have a side hustle, but if you’re not comfortable going the DIY route, hire a pro!
  • You’re worried about not getting your taxes done right. There aren’t many words in the English language that are scarier than tax audit. After all, no one wants to have their financial life picked apart by the IRS. Having a tax advisor to guide you and help you file your taxes correctly will let you breathe a little easier once Tax Day has come and gone.

What Should You Look For in a Tax Advisor?

Let’s face it: Taxes are as complicated as they are boring. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, head on over to the IRS website and just start reading. That’ll knock you out real quick.

But tax advisors—the good ones—aren’t like the rest of us. They live, eat and breathe this stuff. They’re up-to-date on all the latest changes and trends happening in Tax World so they can help you understand which tax laws, deductions and credits affect you.

But looking for a tax pro goes beyond head knowledge. Here are eight important qualities you should always look for in a tax advisor before you agree to trust them with your taxes:

1. They’re qualified and have the right certifications.

When you’re looking for a tax pro, you’ll want to work with someone who will give you quality advice. In other words, they know what the flip they’re doing!

When it comes to getting tax advice, find a pro who has one of these two certifications:

  • Enrolled Agent: An Enrolled Agent is a tax specialist for people looking for professional tax return preparation and tax advice. Plus, they’re licensed by the IRS to represent you if you’re being audited.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Certified Public Accountants specialize in tax preparation and planning, but they can also offer a bunch of other services to help you throughout the year—from bookkeeping to long-term financial planning. If your tax situation is really complicated, a CPA can help with advice on tax strategies to follow based on your circumstances.

Enrolled Agents and CPAs both go through extensive training, testing and continuing education to maintain their credentials and stay up-to-date on tax laws and regulations so they can better serve you. Someone with just a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) isn’t going to cut it.

Fun fact: Every single Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) is either an Enrolled Agent or a CPA. That means when you work with a RamseyTrusted ELP, you can be sure you’re working with a top-notch pro! 

2. They’re available all year.

Nowadays, there are a bunch of part-time, fly-by-night tax preparers popping up during tax season only to disappear once they file your tax return, never to be heard from again. Not even on a Christmas card or a magnetic calendar for your fridge.

Like we said, things happen throughout the year that can have a big effect on how you file your taxes for that tax year. When life happens, having a reliable tax pro who will pick up the phone to answer your tax questions in September (not just January through April) can make a huge difference.

3. They understand your financial goals.

No matter where you are on the Baby Steps, it helps to have a tax advisor who’s on the same wavelength as you. That means they take the time to learn about you, your family and your financial goals so they can give you tax advice that will drive you closer to reaching those goals.

Whether they’re helping you adjust your paycheck withholdings so you can pay off debt faster or helping you identify potential pros and cons of taking your side hustle to the next level, a great tax advisor is always looking for ways to help you move the ball down the field.

4. They make time to answer your tax questions.

When tax terms like deductions and itemizing and adjusted gross income start getting thrown around, your head probably starts to flood with questions. Don’t worry, that’s a completely normal reaction.

Your tax advisor should always be ready to sit down with you and answer your questions. That’s what it means to have the heart of a teacher!

There’s a saying among tax pros that for every tax problem there is a solution that’s clear, uncomplicated and . . . wrong. Good tax advisors know the right answers!

If you’re asking questions and your tax advisor rolls their eyes or gives you some highbrow answer that leaves you more confused than you were before, it’s probably time to look for a new advisor.

5. They’re proactive in communicating with you.

You don’t just want somebody who puts a rubber stamp on your return and walks away. That’s just lazy. You need a tax pro who will take the initiative and keep an eye out for things you might need to change for the upcoming year.

Did you get a big refund? No one wants to give the government an interest-free loan. Have you seen how they handle money? A good tax pro will take the time to explain that your employer has been taking too much money out of your paycheck for taxes and show you how to fix it.

Or what if you got slapped with a big tax bill? Your pro should be able to explain why you had to cut a check to Uncle Sam and how you can avoid getting blindsided next year. 

6. They can help you with small-business taxes.

If you have a small business or if you’re dreaming about starting one someday, it’s easy to forget about what that means for your taxes. But you’ll be glad you have a tax pro who has experience working with small-business owners and can help you navigate through small-business tax rates, estimated taxes and which deductions you qualify for as a business owner.

7. They can help you with your taxes next year . . . and the year after that.

Having a tax advisor you can turn to year after year can save you from having to explain the same things over and over again to a new random tax preparer every spring. Who has time for that?

Besides, it helps to have a tax advisor who knows you and your tax situation well enough to give you solid advice and strategies to help you reduce your tax bill.

8. They can be trusted with sensitive information about your finances.

Working with a friend or relative on your taxes might be tempting, but do you really want Uncle Joey to know how much you make, how big your mortgage is or even if you tithe to your church? That could make Thanksgiving dinner kind of awkward!

It’s important that you find a tax advisor you can trust with all the nuts and bolts of your financial situation. Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship—including your relationship with your tax pro!

Find a Tax Advisor You Can Trust

Ready to get in touch with a tax advisor who will treat you like a human being and not just another tax identification number? We have a nationwide network of tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) who are ready to serve you! These RamseyTrusted tax pros can sit down with you and help you get through tax season without all the stress.

Find a tax advisor today!

Interested in becoming an Endorsed Local Provider? Let us know.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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